Save Marple Greenspace

Despite the buildings on the former Don Guanella campus being mostly vacant, the applicant loaded the sanitary sewer system with water from the unoccupied buildings to generate 12 months of water bills totaling 40,694 gallons per day, which they then offer to be the equivalent capacity for when the campus was fully occupied. The developer clearly acknowledged that they have simply allowed the water to run (spigots open) for the past year.” 

January 11, 2020

We just conducted a routine review of the "Sproul Road Developers" file at the Marple Township building to see if there was anything new relating to Peter Miller’s proposed residential development of the Don Guanella forest. It contained an upsetting letter which sheds more unflattering light on the character of the people who've been threatening to cut down the last large forest in Eastern Delaware County in order to force the construction of what would be the second biggest shopping center in Delaware County – right across the street from one of the busiest cemeteries on the East Coast. These are the same people who organized several private "focus group" meetings using an employee of the Pennsylvania Resource Council as a shill to persuade area residents to accept a hit to their quality of life from ~30,000 new vehicle trips on Sproul Road. They said “they didn’t want to fight the community” – right before they proposed chopping down the forest. 

So we can't say we were entirely surprised by the letter in which Marple’s township manager described to the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) some very unusual water usage at the vacant Don Guanella Village from February 21, 2018 to January 19, 2019.  The letter states: 

So in order for Miller/McElwee/Carlino to "prove" they have enough sewer capacity for their 141 houses (or for their bloated shopping center), they wasted 15 MILLION gallons of treated drinking water! What kind of people would do such a thing? Tap water that was intended for consumption by Delaware County residents was simply allowed to drain into the Radnor-Haverford-Marple Sewer System. But Miller didn't just flush potable water from the Springton Reservoir – which was conditioned to be drinkable and piped under pressure to Don Guanella at considerable expense  – he and his partners wasted the resources of the downstream sewer authorities which had to treat and then discharge 15 million gallons of additional effluent into the Delaware River. Even pure drinking water must be treated once it enters the sewers.

The township letter goes on:

We're not making this up. They actually did this.

Think of how much water you use in a year. A family of four consumes about 400 gallons per day. That's 146,000 gallons per year on average. Miller and the Archdiocese just wasted 100 times that amount just to prove a point that they actually failed to make. Of course, there's nothing technically illegal about wasting drinking water. Our society rarely penalizes crimes against nature and natural resources. However, authorities should consider whether fraud was committed by trying to manipulate the RHM sewer authority's connection moratorium. 

Going beyond what's legal or not, we can all agree that it's morally wrong for someone to waste or destroy a natural resource for their own economic gain at the expense of the community or greater good. So if the Archdiocese was aware that these spigots were left to run (and they would have had to be since they own the buildings at Don Guanella), then clearly they are morally compromised. How can the Archdiocese preach about "God's creation" when they just allowed 15 million gallons of drinking water to be poured down the drain? In a world where most of humanity does not have access to clean drinking water, is this not a “mortal sin” according to the Church's own teachings? Sadly, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia continues to disregard Pope Francis' recent encyclical Laudato Si' in which he called on all of us to protect the environment, "our common home."


We should say a quick word about sewer capacity at Don Guanella and the existing moratorium on adding any new effluent to the Radnor-Haverford-Marple sewer system. The moratorium, instituted because the RHM system is at full capacity, allows for "grandfathered" use. So, the Don Guanella Village, if it were to open again, was entitled to a certain number of gallons per day based on historical usage. According to information we had at the time, we believed this was 32,000 gallons per day (GPD) of grandfathered capacity (about 80 houses or "EDUs"). However, as noted by Marple Township's engineer in his July review letter, the Archdiocese had previously transferred 12,000 GPD of that capacity (30 EDUs) to a housing facility adjacent to Cardinal O'Hara High School leaving an actual grandfathered capacity of 20,000 GPD for any current or new development on the Don Guanella site.

The document Miller submitted

to DELCORA in April, 2018

You could be forgiven for thinking that an abandoned former school complex would generate little or no wastewater.  But 15 million gallons in a year? Shameful.

The Miller team didn't just thoughtlessly waste a precious natural resource. They wasted tremendous amounts of energy, too, because it takes a substantial energy to treat water to make it potable and even more energy for sewage treatment plants to properly discharge it into streams. It's not known  how many spigots were left running. Click letter image to read.

By Ken Hemphill

By Ken Hemphill

Miller's latest residential development “application” before Marple Township asks for 141 houses. This translates to a need for 56,400 GPD of sewer capacity. That's 36,400 GPD more than what is allowed into the RHM system per the moratorium (20,000 GPD). So why doesn't Miller's residential proposal call for measures he indicated in documents previously submitted to DELCORA to support the sewering of the Marple Town M??nstR™ ? The answer has to do with costs. The DELCORA document below indicates that the vast majority of flows from the M??nstR™ (~90,000 out of 114,000 GPD total) would be directed to another nearby sewer district (Central Delaware County Authority). So while a massive shopping center would probably cover the cost of building an expensive mile long sewer connection to the CDCA system (assuming Marple allowed them to even connect to it given existing capacity issues there as well), a residential development of 141 houses would certainly not.   

In the end, what's most bizarre about Miller (and the Archdiocese) wasting 15 million gallons of drinking water is that in the DELCORA document, he admits that he doesn't have the sewer capacity for 141 houses! [The document proposes 24,000 GPD to be sent to the RHM (or, 4,000 more than the actual grandfathered capacity.)] So this sewer stunt wasted all that water for nothing to

demonstrate something they already knew they couldn't do.  

It's high time the Archdiocese ended their "option to purchase" agreement with

"Carlino Commercial" since the Whetstone Coalition is prepared to fight for a decade

if necessary to protect the Don Guanella forest. In the end, the diocese would get

paid a whole lot sooner by protecting the forest instead of trying to destroy it. 

The Township is taking the position that the reported sewer capacity, determined by embellishing water meter records, is inappropriate and does not represent existing available capacity within the RHM service area in Marple Township. Further, in addition to being alarmed at the wasteful and entirely nonrepresentative methods used in attempting to establish ‘grandfathered' capacity at the site, the township is concerned about transferring capacity from an existing facility to support development of another property, when the existing facility remains in use and could potentially be renovated, and use expanded.